I wrote – Rana Osama:
In a rare incident that Germans are not usually familiar with in the summer, Germany, specifically in its west and southwest, is witnessing a state of bad weather that led to heavy rains and massive floods described as “catastrophic”, and shocked and frightened the authorities.
Floods in the states of “Rhineland-Palatinate, North Rhine-Westphalia”, located in western Germany, have left at least 42 people dead so far, while dozens are still missing. It also caused the collapse of houses, uprooted trees, inundated roads and cars, and obstructed the movement of trains.
According to local reports, 7 people were found dead in several places in North Rhine-Westphalia, two firefighters were killed during rescue operations, two bodies were found in Solingen, and deaths were reported in the Rheinbach region and Cologne.
A Koblenz police spokesman said bad weather had left four people dead in the Arweiler district of Eifel, a volcanic region of hills and small valleys southwest of Cologne.
In the town of Schuld, south of Bonn, and six houses on the banks of a river have collapsed, police have counted 70 missing so far, while other homes appear to be in danger of collapse.
What is the cause of the floods?
The once-in-100-year floods were caused by a slow-moving low-pressure weather system that dumped 148 liters of rain per square meter within 48 hours, in a part of Germany that typically sees about 80 liters of rain during the entire month of July.
The German Met Office issued a warning of bad weather in parts of three western states, while the city of Hagen, with a population of 180,000 people, declared a state of emergency after the river “Volm” overflowed, according to the British newspaper, “The Guardian”.
The crisis response team in Hagen warned that in the coming hours, the water level would reach levels that only occur once every quarter of a century, appealing to people living near the city’s rivers to move to higher lands immediately, according to the public broadcaster WDR.
The German weather service, DWD, predicted a decrease in precipitation on Thursday.
“We usually only see this in the winter,” said Bernd Millig, an environmental official in North Rhine-Westphalia, the region hardest hit by the floods. He added: “It is something like this, with this severity, is not unusual at all in the summer.”
Heavy rains raised rivers, uprooted trees, and inundated roads and homes.
“There are dead and missing and hundreds are still in danger. We’ve never seen anything like this. It’s really devastating,” said Mallo Dreyer, mayor of the state of Rhineland-Palatinate.
Meanwhile, rescuers are trying to evacuate the afflicted who have taken refuge on the roofs of their homes. But several roads have closed, which complicates the functioning of operations.
A Koblenz police spokesman told Reuters an “unclear number” of people were trapped on the roofs of their flood-damaged homes, waiting for rescue.
He pointed out that there are “many places where firefighting teams and rescue workers have been deployed,” adding: “We don’t have a very accurate picture yet of the numbers, because rescue procedures are still underway.”
And German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer announced the provision of rapid support from the German army to the areas experiencing bad weather and floods in western and southwestern Germany.
“Today we are thinking of all those affected by bad weather and floods,” Kramp-Karrenbauer wrote on Twitter, Thursday. “The German army is helping quickly and without complications in the cities of Hagen and Arnweiler, with a total of 300 soldiers and soldiers.”
The true extent of the damage is still not clear, with electricity supply interrupted to many villages and cities due to flood waters and landslides, according to “The Guardian”.
Videos posted on social media showed cars floating in the streets and partially collapsed houses in some places.
The authorities declared a state of emergency in the area after days of heavy rain.
Large areas of western and central Germany, and neighboring countries witnessed heavy rains, which caused widespread damage. Also, 200,000 people were affected by power outages in the two western states. In Leverkusen, more than 468 patients were evacuated from local hospitals after a power outage.
Authorities in the Rhein-Sieg district south of Cologne have ordered the evacuation of several villages below the Steinbachtal Reservoir, amid fears that the dam could collapse there as well.
The army was deployed across North Rhine-Westphalia on Wednesday to help stranded residents, and land and sea transport in the country’s most populous state were disrupted, and hundreds of people were evacuated.
Governor Armin Laschet, who is running in Germany’s fall elections to replace Angela Merkel as chancellor, was expected to visit the flood-hit Hagen later Thursday.
panic and shock
The floods frightened and shocked German officials.
Germany’s Social Democratic candidate, Olaf Scholz, has expressed his dismay at the consequences of bad weather and floods in western Germany.
Olaf Scholz, who is Germany’s Federal Finance Minister and Vice-Chancellor Angela Merkel, tweeted on Thursday: “The news about the floods is shocking… It is now important to get quick help.”
Schulz expressed his sincere thanks to all the rescue forces risking their lives in these circumstances, and said: “My sympathy goes to all the missing, the victims and their families, as well as all those whose homes were flooded.”
German Chancellor Angela Merkel also expressed her shock over the floods, and offered her sympathy to the families of the victims and missing persons, and thanked the workers who are helping to save the situation there.